The Masters 2020 – Day 2

Day 2 at the 2020 brought an extraordinary comeback from Stephen Maguire in the afternoon and a magnificent display from the debutant David Gilbert. Both sent their top 8 seeded and former Masters Champions opponents home.

Maguire came back fro 4-0 and 5-1 down to beat Neil Robertson and, in the process, produced one of the most extraornary shots in the sport’s history.

Maguire 6-5 Neil Robertson (report by WST)

Stephen Maguire made one of the best comebacks of his career as he recovered a 5-1 deficit to beat Neil Robertson 6-5 in the first round of the Dafabet Masters.

World number five Robertson failed to capitalise on chances in the closing stages as he became the third player seeded among the top eight to fall so far at Alexandra Palace, following the exits of Ding Junhui and Mark Selby on Sunday. Glasgow’s Maguire is through to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015 and will face Mark Allen or David Gilbert next.

World number 15 Maguire is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career having lifted trophies at the Six Red World Championship and World Cup as well as reaching the final of the UK Championship. But even he must have though his hopes of a run this week were over when Robertson cruised into a 5-1 lead with top breaks of 76, 136 and 71.

Maguire sparked his fight back in frame seven with a run of 105. The Scot trailed 56-0 in frame eight, but battled his way back and eventually got the better of a safety battle on the yellow then cleared for 5-3.

Robertson had another match-winning chance in the ninth and made 40 before failing to split the pack of reds from the blue. Maguire punished him with a 65 clearance. And a break of 81 in the next from Maguire draw him level at 5-5.

First clear chance in the decider went to Robertson and he made 28 before missing a tricky black. Maguire’s match-winning 62 included a risky do-or-die pot on the green on 20 when it looked as if he had run out of position.

“It was a tough green I took on to keep the break going – but I wasn’t going out playing safe today. If it went in, I fancied dishing up. If it didn’t, I’d be going home,” said 38-year-old Maguire. “I’ve played a few 5-5s and I know funny things can happen. I just went for everything and managed to win.

“I never show any emotion, but I gave it the fist there and nearly uppercut myself in the chin with that punch. It was stupid really, it’s not me. But it just shows you winning means a lot.

“It has to be one of the best comebacks of my career. I haven’t done that from 4-0 down much – I had one against Mark Williams at the UK Championship a couple of years ago. But that is right up there.

“Neil was the better player and should have put me to bed 6-1 or 6-0 after the interval.  You don’t get these comebacks very often, so they’re special.”

Robertson said: “I was rusty because I hadn’t played a match for a while. I had chances, but played a couple of bad shots and got unlucky in splitting the pack at 5-3.”

Before the tournament, Robertson pledged to donate £5,000 plus an extra £100 for every century made during this week’s tournament to the WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation in light of the current bushfires.

Today he added: “A couple of other players have pledged more donations which I really appreciate. I have been really emotional following what’s happening, especially as it’s close to where my family live. My mind is back home and it puts a game of snooker into perspective, though I don’t want to make any excuses about today’s result.”

Here is the most extraordinary shot:

David Gilbert had promised himself to play with freedom and enjoy his first Masters appearance. He did just that … completely outplaying Mark Allen was the bonus result!

David Gilbert 6-1 Mark Allen (report by WST) 

David Gilbert enjoyed a sensational Dafabet Masters debut, demolishing Mark Allen 6-1 to book his place in the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace.

Tamworth’s 38-year-old Gilbert has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent years to secure his place in the world’s top 16 and earn a maiden Masters spot.

He appeared at the World Championship as a seed last season after reaching the elite 16 for the first time. Gilbert went on a fairytale run to the Crucible semi-finals, where he was beaten 17-16 by John Higgins.

Defeat for 2018 Masters champion Allen means he is the fourth player seeded among the top eight to fall at the first hurdle, with all matches so far going to the lower ranked players. It comes after opening round defeats for Ding Junhui, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson.

Gilbert came flying out of the traps this evening. He fired in breaks of 77, 121 and 58 on his way to taking a clean sweep of the frames before the mid-session, where he led 4-0.

Allen pulled one back when they returned, but it was to no avail as Gilbert shot past the finishing line with breaks of 95 and 53 to secure a superb victory. Next up Gilbert faces Stephen Maguire.

“It is easily the best performance of my life. Mark Allen is an amazing player, it is Alexandra Palace and it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Gilbert. “I wanted it to go that way, but it is very rare I play like that, let alone in front of 2000 people. It is a dream start.

“We came down last night and watched Mark Selby and Ali Carter walk in from the Century Club, where we had dinner. It was a great atmosphere. While I was watching the Jester walk down, I just thought that this was the place I wanted to be. I tried to enjoy it, not stress and go for my shots. I don’t want to be a number anymore, I want to be a part of things like this. Hopefully I can build on that.

“I love Stephen as a player. I always thought when we were kids that he was the one  that would go on to win everything and he nearly has. I would swap with him in a heartbeat. I saw the end of his game earlier, I am sure he will be full of confidence like I am.”

Allen said: “With Dave on his debut here it can go one of two ways. You can feel inspired and start like he did, or you can feel the nerves and fall flat on your face, that was what I was hoping for but it didn’t happen. He played great, but there are a lot of questions to be asked about how I played.

“I felt very good out there, but just couldn’t get anything going at all. It was very poor performance. It is hard to pinpoint what it was, I felt good technically, just maybe I wasn’t quite strong enough mentally tonight.”

Ronnie was in the studio in the evening. He was full of praise for David Gilbert. David himself credited Steve Feeney for his successes over the last couple of years.

Despite the bitter defeat Mark Allen spent 20 minutes signing for the fans  in the arena after the match. Credits Mark!

This is the evening session mid-session:

and the evening session review:

So far none of the top 8 seeds have gone through the quarter finals, and none of the former Masters champions. The latter is sure to change today as Judd Trump will play Shaun Murphy. And so far my predictions have all gone badly wrong. I promise, if Ronnie enters the World, I will predict boldly that he will go out first round and never win it again! Who knows…